By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports will be left with mixed emotions from their first round Premiership clash with Fraser Tech, encouraged by a much better overall performance but sprinkled in disappointment as they had chances to win what eventually became a 10-28 loss in Hamilton on Saturday.
Sports showed a massive improvement in intensity and had Tech on the back foot for long periods of the game, but just couldn’t convert the pressure into points, and hurt themselves with mistakes at the worst possible times, and could break Tech’s stout defensive front on their own line.
The first half was a low scoring affair, the first half hour remaining scoreless as Sports kept pushing Tech back into their half and controlling possession well, undone by a couple of errors at the back of the ruck while hot on attack and some desperate goal line defence.
Sports opened the scoring late in the first half with a Carwyn Penny penalty goal but let themselves down massively with a staggered kick chace that left winger Valynce Te Whare wide open down the left flank to return the kick on the stroke of half time, Tech taking a narrow 7-3 into the break.
The second half began as the first ended, with Te Whare fielding a deep kick, shaking the first two tacklers and outpacing the cover defence to score his second and stretching the lead to 14-3 after the successful Liam Coombs-Fabling conversion.
Like the first half, the next period took place between the quarters with neither side really taking charge until centre Shauncy Waho split the defence open and found halfback Dan Babos running a perfect support line to cross under the post and closing the gap to four points.
The two sides battered each other some more until a skirmish out wide caught Sports short and Tech pounced to take a back breaking 21-10 lead heading into the last 10 minutes.
Sports threw the kitchen sink at the Tech defence, but were hamstrung by a faltering lineout, some incredible goal line defence and the rub of the officiating green keeping them from adding to their score, before Tech shut the game on the stroke of full-time to post what was a somewhat flattering final score to Fraser Tech.
Despite the loss, there was plenty of positives to pull from the match, despite a number of unavailabilities in the backs, Sports patchwork backline performed well, with winger come centre Shanucy Waho looking dangerous each time he touched the ball in space and half-back Dan Babos controlling the ruck well. Flanker Fetu Sasalu made a welcome return, his wrecking ball style providing some real go forward earning him man of the match and along with No.8 Kieran Westlake and Prop Gordon Fullerton, really challenged the Fraser Tech defence.
Sports stay on the road next week, travelling to Waikato University looking to build on an encouraging performance this week.